How to Landscape Your New Deck

A deck is a convenient and comfortable place to spend time outdoors. Make it more welcoming with landscaping, that creates ambience and helps anchor the deck to the rest of the landscape.

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Luke Miller

Wrapping a Present

Think of landscaping around a deck as gift wrapping—it makes something seem more special. Building a deck is great but adding foliage can be just as exciting. Aesthetically, plants help anchor a deck to the surroundings so it doesn’t stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. It feels at home. And so do you.

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Luke Miller

Unfinished Business

This new deck makes a nice addition to the outdoor living space. But, it really needs landscaping to tie it in with its surroundings. This newly planted bed will fill in nicely over the next few years. It consists of Proven Winners perennials and shrubs, left to right: allium, purple fountain grass, ‘Banana Cream’ shasta daisy, Little Quickfire hydrangea and Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon.

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Luke Miller

A Clean Slate

This Trex Transcend deck in Spiced Rum is pretty on its own, but landscaping makes a good thing even better. And there’s nothing better than a good group of hostas. The area around the deck is part shade, so it calls for a mix of plants. Proven Winners shrubs include Blue Chiffon rose of Sharon, Fine Line buckthorn, Kodiak Orange diervilla, and Low Scape Mound aronia. Proven Winners perennials shown are ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Cherry Ruffles’ heuchera, ‘Leading Lady Lilac’ monarda, ‘Diamond Lake’, ‘Autumn Frost’ and ‘Wu-La-La’ hosta, and ‘Queen of Hearts’ brunnera.

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Luke Miller

A Rock and a Hard Place

I added a few rocks to the setting for two reasons: they add to the natural look; and those on the outer edge are a visual clue where the bed ends and the path begins. The large clumps of marigolds were a late addition after I found them on sale for a buck apiece. I like the way they frame the rocks.

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: Luke Miller

Step Lively

Closer to the steps, I added a Lemony Lace elderberry, ‘Storm Cloud’ amsonia (sometimes called bluestar), coleus and Primo ‘Pretty Pistachio’ heuchera.

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Luke Miller

Dependable Color

Toward the other side of the deck, I planted dependable perennial color. Summer-blooming aliums are a nice, tough, compact plant with grassy foliage and violet-colored flowerheads in summer. ‘Banana Cream’ shasta daisies will bloom for an extended period of time, if deadheaded. And ‘Blue Chiffon’ rose of Sharon peaks in early summer but blooms sporadically the rest of the season.

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Luke Miller

Feeling Blue

Although they’re modestly sized now, these plants will soon fill in. Pinpoint Blue false cypress and Prairie Winds ‘Totem Pole’ switchgrass, both from Proven Winners, have intriguing blue-gray foliage.

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Luke Miller

Fill in the Gaps

The gap between the steps and the pavers could be filled one of two ways: with mulch or plants. I opted for the latter, plugging in some variegated lamium that will quickly fill in and trail over the pavers.

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Luke Miller

Throwing a Curve

When dealing with a rectangle-shape deck, I like to throw in some curves to offset the harsh lines. In this case, I rerouted concrete edgers from the previous landscape in a flowing pattern toward the steps. The circular pavers were already well positioned at the base of the steps, so once the edgers were installed, it was just a matter of planting and putting down a nice cedar mulch. That’s Hazelnut, our dog, keeping me company on a 93-degree F day of landscaping.

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Luke Miller

Corner the Containers

Another way to offset harsh lines, especially corners, is with container gardens. The trio of pots is filled with pink celosia, burgundy dracaena and coleus, orange zinnias, chocolate sweet potato vine and green spikes. The large pot sitting by itself has a tropical palm, vacationing outdoors for the summer, along with burgundy and green coleus.

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Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.